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Notary Bulletin

Personal Appearance: The Best Protection For Notaries

Updated 11-12-20. The best way to protect yourself from being sued for negligence is to require every signer to appear in person before you for a notarization. 

In fact, every state requires signers to personally appear as a way to thwart forgeries and frauds involving notarized documents. Requiring a signer to be present allows you to properly identify the signer and go through all the other proper steps of a notarization. It also may deter individuals bent on committing crimes from carrying out their plans.

Legal Consequences Of Notarizing Without Personal Appearance

Most lawsuits against Notaries happen because they notarized the signature of someone who wasn’t present. Here are actual examples:

  • A candidate was disqualified in a local election because the signature gatherers were not present before the Notary when their signatures were notarized on his nominating papers.
  • Thousands of borrowers lost their homes when employees of mortgage servicers notarized affidavits supporting scores of foreclosures without the signers present.
  • A senior citizen lost his life savings when a “caregiver” had his signature on a power of attorney naming the caregiver notarized without the signer present before the Notary.

In many instances, the Notaries faced their own legal consequences of failing to require the signer to personally appear.

The best way to protect yourself and minimize risk of Notary liability is to enforce the personal appearance requirement for every notarization. This also protects the public and the transaction.

Questions From Notaries About Remote Online Notarizations

Some Notaries have asked if they are allowed to perform remote online notarizations using online audiovisual communications devices such as webcams. 

Many states have enacted permanent laws that authorize Notaries to perform remote online notarizations using audiovisual communication technology. Other states have enacted emergency remote notarization rules allowing Notaries to perform other types of remote notarizaiton such as remote ink-signed notarizations (RIN) for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. All other states require the signer to appear physically in person before the Notary. 

Bill Anderson is Vice President of Government Affairs with the National Notary Association.



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Bobbi in CT

07 Mar 2016

What about the advertised "webinar" or "Skype" style notarization that is being promoted? I've read that these "not physically present" based on lawsuit definitions, forms of notarization are legal in some states. Does the NNA agree with those State laws that promote this form of notarization? Personally, if I can't "reach out and touch someone" and the two forms of required identification, I would not sign up as an "internet" notary public. Too much personal financial liability for too little fee.

Dianna L Hanson

07 Mar 2016

NNA Ambassador


06 Mar 2017

It would be good to note that there is a difference between appearing before the notary and signing before the notary. In California, you don't need to sign the document in front of the notary. You just need to bring the signed document to the notary and confirm that it is your signature on the document.


26 Feb 2018

I wanted information on the difference between a notary and notary signer Thank you

National Notary Association

26 Feb 2018

Hello. More information is available at this page:


26 Feb 2018

It would be nice for the NNA to come out against Webcam....this will undue your entire NSA program and many notaries will loose their income.


07 Jan 2019

Not so fast Diane, all Jurats ust be signed in front a of notary in CA. No exceptions. I hope you haven't been doing otherwise, because if so, you're in violation and subject to fines from the CA SoS.

Janice Gardner

14 Jan 2020

Is it possible for a signing agent to sign documents in other states other than your home seat state?

National Notary Association

14 Jan 2020

Hello Janice. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Janice Gardner

14 Jan 2020

Is it possible for a signing agent to sign documents in other states other than your home seat state?

National Notary Association

15 Jan 2020

Hello Janice. It depends on your state's jurisdiction rules for Notary commissions. If your state only authorizes Notaries to perform your duties within the borders your own state, then you can't notarize in other states.

Latisha Millard

01 Jun 2020

I had someone ask if they could complete the signer's signature for them due to COVID. First-NO then I explained that since I must physically see the person and that I would cancel the appointment for safety reasons.

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